Noble Rot, the liquid gold of Sauternes

Drive forty minutes from Bordeaux, and you will get to the most amazing wine country of the region, Sauternais, or the only area around Bordeaux where the noble rot grows.sauterne rows noble rot michele roohani

A most peculiar wine is produced here that has not much to do with the red Bordeaux wines that we all know (red or white). Sauternes is made from grapes that have been affected by a gray fungus, Botrytis Cinerea,  which causes the grapes to shrivel, leaving a sugary fruit with concentrated flavors resulting in distinctively flavored wines. sauternes pourriture noble rot Château de Rayne Vigneau michele roohani

I had heard about the Noble Rot (an oxymoron of a name) but I was still amazed to see these grapes on the vine stocks:sauternais pourriture noble rot michle roohaniThe grapes are definitely getting ripe here, all semi rotten! The best Sauternes come from vines that have been hand-picked—up to 12 separate times—to ensure that the grapes are not removed from the vines before reaching the perfect degree of ripeness required for these wines.Botrytis cinerea sauternes noble rot michele roohani.jpgThe eminent Château d’Yqem, the most expensive Sauternes wine, is the only estate in France who has received a class of its own, one step above Premier Crus. Each grape is picked individually, and only when it is rotten enough. Thanks to the noble rot and a lot of hard work, the result is an exquisitely flavored wine that is acidic enough to avoid falling into the trap of being a mere dessert wine.sauternes micheleroohani chateau de fargues golden bottles

The Sauternes region is located 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the city of Bordeaux along the Garonne river and its tributary, the Ciron, which demarcates Barsac (Orange on the map) and Sauternes (yellow on the map). Barsac lies within Sauternes, and is entitled to use either name. Somewhat similar but less expensive and typically less-distinguished wines are produced in the neighboring regions of Monbazillac (which I tasted  a couple of years ago when visiting Bergerac) , Cérons, Loupiac and Cadillac (not the car)!

sauternes barsac ciron michele roohani

The moisture the Ciron brings, and the morning mists it causes, are favorable to the development of the fungus Botrytis cinereangus. This contributes to the high quality and renown of Sauternes wines.My guide explained that vines produce one to two bottles of wine everywhere else, but in Sauternes, you can only get one to two glasses per year! No wonder this wine is so revered (and expensive)…sauternes association de producteurs michele roohani france barsac

Not having money to burn, I only bought some of the more modest bottles after the tasting:

sauternes tasting bottles glasses michele roohani

Of course, there are myriads of labels to choose from:Botrytis cinerea sauternes labels michele roohanilike these bottles with ample and intense golden liquid inside…Cru d’Arche-pugneau Sauternes michele roohani bottlesYou wonder how on earth with amazing wines like these in the region,golden Botrytis cinerea sauternes barsac micheleroohanisome of the locals drink coffee…gentleman drinking espresso bordeaux michele roohani

My other post about wine:

A night with some dry drunk Persians here

8 thoughts on “Noble Rot, the liquid gold of Sauternes

  1. you were at 150 kms (maybe less) from the place where I grew up 🙂

    A wonderful breathe and lots of nice colours, smells, textures come back to my mind.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. You are a bad, BAD girl, Michele – maybe even Rotten – but in a very Noble kind of way…
    You are making me Terribly Thirsty!!
    Yet, Thankful Too.

  3. T.S. Elliot once said that poetry is a raid on the inarticulate.
    Today I offer the stitching of a few words in appreciation of your post.

    I took me a few steps to my computer this morning
    to start my Sun day, with your offering,
    for me a quick trip to the land of peasants and nobles,
    for you, the fruition of your long time devotion.

    So I gain not to reprieve extolling you
    for the many long hours you devote to
    realize, visit, select and share
    while pouring your reflections in to this cup
    for those lost and the ones nodding…..

    to the nature’s child;

    At times I call Her wine, at times a cup.
    at times a polished gold, at times a rot.
    at times a bait, at times a prey, and sometimes a trap.
    a noble mystery, till I reveal Her sap.

  4. Beautiful Post Michele. Mais Je prefere Le VIn Rouge. But this is interesting.

    I have tasted some of the modest ( not so expensive ) Sauternes but have never been pleased enough to drink more than a glass.

    Perhaps its to be had like Desserts. A glass should be enough…

  5. Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art.
    It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living. ~

    Robert Mondavi, Autobiography,
    “Harvests of Joy”

  6. I love the way you educate us and, at the same time, feast our eyes with your exquisite photos. And thank you, lucious (whoever you are), for putting into pinpoint verse my thoughts–exactly.

  7. Il n’est jamais trop tard pour mal faire aussi vais-je écrire que les photographies de Michele sont, as usual, aussi belles que le vin de Sauternes est cher. Une bouteille de Château Yquem
    coûte, au prix le moins élevé, environ 600€ soit 900$ US. Qui peut acheter un tel vin qui fait souvent l’objet d’un placement spéculatif? Et qui a un palais suffisamment fin pour déceler toutes les nuances réelles ou supposées du breuvage? J’ai un ami oenologue qui est sceptique à ce propos. Mais il est bien sûr que je ne souhaite empêcher personne de rêver sur les vins fabuleux de Bordeaux…

  8. This was a fantastic story of how this wine comes to life. I am especially fascinated that you talk about Château d’Yqem, as I have been searching for the symbolic story that is behind it. I wonder if you know anything on that…. How it has become a friendship icon because it changes color… I never found the full story anywhere, but very intersetd to learn about it.

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